By on March 26, 2020

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While Ford Motor Co. plans to reopen several factories by early April, it’s not doing much of anything at present. That’s a standard problem among domestic brands with the coronavirus afoot, and two of them — Ford and General Motors — are coming off sizable restructuring efforts that included staffing reductions in the thousands. Additional cutbacks aren’t desirable; not with everyone watching how these companies handle the outbreak.

As it secures extra spending power from credit lines, Ford knows the steep financial cost of having the majority of its workforce stuck at home (to say nothing of its customers) will be steep. A plan is now afoot to keep jobs secure. (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2020

The UAW has announced the death of two Fiat Chrysler factory workers who contracted the novel coronavirus, extending sympathies while urging members to exercise safe practices during the ongoing health crisis. With COVID-19 infections ramping up across Europe and the United States, this was to be expected. The deaths are simply the first known to impact autoworker union members directly.

FCA declined to offer the names of the men, citing a respect for privacy. For our purposes, we’re only interested in their places of business, noticing the facilities where the two individuals worked — FCA’s truck plant in Sterling Heights, MI and transmission facility in Kokomo, IN — previously reported cases of employees contracting the virus.  (Read More…)

By on March 20, 2020

Starsky Robotics is shutting down, ending whatever prospects it had at becoming the world’s premier self-driving company for long-haul trucking. The business has hit a snag with funding, with CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher announcing the fundraising it scheduled for November worked out rather badly.

Lacking capital was what ultimately killed Starsky Robotics, though Seltz-Axmacher claims the issue is quite a bit more complicated than that. Despite making significant progress with his own company, he now feels Starsky and the rest of the world has been incredibly naive in how it handled autonomous vehicles. He also believes there’s something deeply wrong with the burgeoning AV industry — it’s becoming bloated, progress has been slower than promised, investors don’t understand anything about the technology, and artificial intelligence is deeply flawed.  (Read More…)

By on March 19, 2020

tesla factory fremont, Image: Tesla Motors

Tesla has earned no shortage of criticism for being the only American manufacturer yet to suspend production as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Rather than enact a full-blown shutdown, the California-based automaker opted to reduce its active workforce to just 2,500 employees — about a quarter of its total strength.

Six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area have issued a “shelter-in-place order” aimed at curtailing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Tesla’s Fremont facility is located in Alameda County — one of the municipalities telling residents to stay in their homes and close all nonessential businesses. Noticing that the factory had failed to comply with the notice, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office tweeted out that Tesla was “not an essential business as defined in the Alameda County Health Order.”

But we’re not even sure what the company is legally obligated to do.  (Read More…)

By on March 18, 2020

Last month we covered an alarming trend where Tesla appeared to be intentionally removing features from vehicles as they entered the secondhand market. Used automobiles are typically sold with their original equipment intact. The previous owner may have wanted to yank out the tape deck or remove the fuzzy steering wheel cover before handing it over, but these are things you probably negotiated before any money changed hands. Unfortunately, things have only grown more complicated in the (post)modern era.

Reports have rolled in of Tesla stripping cars of thousands of dollars worth of features (mainly Autopilot and Ludicrous Mode) simply because they’re in line for a new owner. This sets an ugly precedent for the industry and undermines the time-honored tradition of the private sale. However, there seems to be some amount of confusion surrounding the company’s official policy and its behavior.  (Read More…)

By on March 17, 2020

As we attempt to wean ourselves off endless discussions the new coronavirus, we’ve noticed there’s not exactly a glut of alternative news out there. Trade shows are being delayed, factories are being idled, and the whole world seems to be in standby mode as we attempt to stall the spread of COVID-19 following its migration out of China.

Regional quarantines in Asia were already doing a number on supply chains, and it wasn’t long before manufacturers around the world began idling production to further slow the virus’s spread. By the beginning of March, it was becoming quite clear that auto sales would suffer significant impacts as people spent the next several weeks isolated in their own homes. Now, the push is on to assess just how much this whole ordeal will impact an OEM’s bottom line.  (Read More…)

By on March 16, 2020

coronavirus. Image: Shutterstock user Lightspring

You’ve no doubt spent the last week receiving emails from every brand you’ve ever interacted with, with each missive spelling out how the company in question is handling the coronavirus.

Some of these messages make sense — I definitely want to know that airlines, hotels, and restaurants are taking this seriously and expanding their efforts to keep things clean and disinfected, as well as how cancellation/reservation policies may change — while others seem frivolous. Do I need to hear from Sunglass Hut?

You might be wondering how TTAC’s coverage of the auto industry will change, with life having seemingly ground to a halt in large swaths of the United States and Canada and around the world.

(Read More…)

By on March 6, 2020

Coronavirus outbreaks are shrinking sales expectations around the globe, but it’s Asia that has the most to lose. We’ve already seen rolling reports of the Chinese market’s virus-related decline — an affliction that’s spilling over into neighboring regions as more people fall ill and others stay home to avoid contagion. Employees, parts, and customers are all in short supply.

Goldman Sachs now predicts global sales will decline 3.5 percent in 2020. It’s a considerably more foreboding estimate than the 0.3-percent contraction predicted just last month, and the decline is presumed to hit Japan the hardest — after China, of course.  (Read More…)

By on March 2, 2020

While fleet participation helped Nissan boost its sales volume for years, management feels it hasn’t done the company any favors in terms of profitability. As such, the company says it wants to take the 2020 Sentra out of the rental circuit. If you borrow a vehicle from rental agencies more than never, you’ve probably noticed Nissan’s compact sedan is often the default choice when the supply of Chevrolet Sonics or Toyota Corollas dries up.

Expect less of this moving forward, but be warned it’s not the dream scenario you envisioned. First off, there will undoubtedly be leftover 2019 models on rental lots for some time. Secondly, Nissan improved the 2020 Sentra to a point where you might actually prefer it. The manufacturer made no small effort effort to shore up the sedan’s ride quality, handling, comfort, tech and visual aesthetics for the new generation — succeeding rather well, according to our own Tim Healey. It also has a new 2.0-liter motor offering superior vigor versus its anemic 1.8-liter predecessor. With more on offer, Nissan figured it was a better idea to try it out on customers first, rather than assuming its rightful place is in a rental fleet.  (Read More…)

By on February 28, 2020

Pretty much anytime automotive data acquisition becomes the topic of discussion, we have to take time to mention customer protections and ask where the line for privacy should be drawn. With social media firms making a mint off the process online and automakers conducting major moves to likewise leverage personal data, it’s practically a nervous tic at this point.

Hoping to get out ahead of some of the potential problems arising from issue, California enacted new consumer protection laws that came into effect at the start of the year.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) aims to give individuals greater control over the personal data being harvested. Most of this is supposed to be done by allowing consumers to request what kind of information is being collected, ask where it’s going, and the ability request that the subsequent sale or continued acquisition of personal data cease. However, CCPA contains provisions for customers to ask a company to delete all information it has stored on them, as well as rules prohibiting any discrimination related to a person exercising their privacy rights.

Frankly, it all sounds rather good to someone who prattles endlessly about data privacy rights, but it’s also causing problems for the automotive industry. (Read More…)

By on February 26, 2020

With South Korea, Italy and Iran now reporting growing coronavirus outbreaks, it looks like this is going to be one of these long-haul illnesses that sends everyone to the store to stock on up on milk and bread. As you might have guessed, automakers have continued issuing warnings as the virus’ range continues to expand. On Wednesday, Toyota announced that its Japanese plans will undoubtedly be impacted by parts shortages over the next few weeks as Chinese suppliers remain dormant.

The worst of the outbreak is still located in Wuhan, where the virus is spreading out toward China’s coastal cities. Reliable figures for the number of people affected are difficult to come by. The Communist Party of China (CPC) and World Health Organization (WPO) both claim China had this one in the bag, with new cases always reported as “slowing” — an assertion you would be forgiven for doubting. COVID-19 seems anything but under control. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told U.S. citizens to prepare for the worst as the stock market stumbled over fears of a global pandemic.  (Read More…)

By on February 21, 2020

infiniti nissan factory japan

Yep, we’re still talking about the damned coronavirus. But how could we not, with the situation being obfuscated from all sides as the outbreak just seems to worsen? Both Japan and South Korea have reported their first deaths relating to the virus; meanwhile, the unsettling theory that 2019-nCoV was created in a Chinese laboratory has grown by leaps and bounds.

While the mainstream media has dismissed this as an unfounded conspiracy, loads of circumstantial evidence published by reputable sources leave one wondering. Our favorite is that the exotic meat market initially pegged as the disease’s point of origin was across the the street from (get this) a viral disease laboratory. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has repeatedly pushed for the virus’ origin to be found, saying “We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases,” only to be framed as an alarmist crank.

There was also a Chinese coverup (similar to SARS) that kicked off when police detained eight doctors in Wuhan for attempting to warn the public of a potential outbreak. The point here is that nobody seems ready to give (or even search for) answers in China. Naturally, this has left people confused and scared, rather than just scared. (Read More…)

By on February 19, 2020

Michael Grimes, former executive assistant and board member of the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, was sentenced to 28 months in prison Wednesday after being convicted of money laundering and wire fraud.

While the sentence could have been longer, prosecutors reportedly asked for leniency due to Grimes’ cooperation with the broader investigation. Initially pushing for about four years of jail time, they eventually toned the recommendation down to just two. U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman acknowledged the defendant’s usefulness in helping federal authorities sniff out more union and industry corruption, then decided to stick him with an extra couple of months to send a message. (Read More…)

By on February 17, 2020

Thanks to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in China, the Beijing auto show has reportedly been postponed. While the event was supposed to take place at the end of April, making its yearly trade with the similarly biannual Shanghai trade show, organizers have decided it’s not worth the risk.

Over 70,000 people have reportedly contracted the virus thus far, with the death toll estimated to be somewhere around 1,700. The White House recently said it did not have “high confidence in the information coming out of China,” estimating higher figures. Travel and shipping bans further complicate the matter. Germany’s Automobilwoche said exhibitors wouldn’t be able to ship displays into the country anyway, referencing health notices sent to global logistics organization CIETC.  (Read More…)

By on February 13, 2020

Not that there’s ever a good time for a global pandemic threat, but the coronavirus currently sweeping through Asia really could have scheduled itself more conveniently. China was already in the midst of an economic downturn when the virus reared its ugly head, with the country’s automotive sector having just moved backward for the second year in a row. The outbreak, centered in the Hubei province’s capital of Wuhan, is guaranteed to worsen the issue.

Responsible for about a tenth of China’s automotive manufacturing power, the region has basically gone dark since the outbreak picked up steam late last month. Over 50 million people are now presumed to be under house arrest due to the Chinese quarantine. Forbidden from going outside, they’re hardly likely to risk infection and government ire just to put for a few hours at their local factory. They also aren’t going to run out to their nearest dealership to support the ailing economy — but that’d be the first place to go after the sequestration ends.

If I were in their shoes, I certainly wouldn’t be taking the bus for a while. (Read More…)

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